Ronnie O’Sullivan, snooker player:
Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a state of mind of negativity. I never felt I deserved anything really, but it kicked in bad when I was 17. I’d just won a competition and this hairdresser, who’d known me a few years, said “you seem really embarrassed”. I didn’t know how to handle success; whereas most people would have been buzzing and full of confidence, it had done the complete opposite to me. I didn’t like the feeling. I felt I was somebody else.
People are quite ignorant about mental illness. They think “you moany old sod, why don’t you just cheer up.” Sometimes I think, "yes I am a moany old sod" and I play that character and get a sense of happiness out of it. The worst thing someone can say is “jack yourself out of it”; in the end I tell them “do you think I enjoy being like this”.
When I was younger I had suicidal thoughts but didn’t have the bottle to do it. Then a couple of years ago I was in the Priory. Before that I tried everything - Paul McKenna, psychotherapy and medication, though I’d throw the pills away when I didn’t get instant results. After being in the Priory I learnt to use medication properly, and I also learnt the importance of talking to people.
Now I can deal with it. Sometimes I can step back, jack myself out of it and get some clarity, but not always. I can’t do it willy nilly. Today I feel at ease with myself, yesterday I wasn’t with it at all.
Some of it is to do with my job, wanting to be a perfectionist. If I don’t get it right, it can bother me. After I won the World Championships there was a feeling of relief, because I thought I’d never achieve it, but during the tournament I had no confidence at all that I could do it. Luckily everyone else did.
I’ve got some very good friends who are my support. Del has been with me for eight years. At times I’ve made his life a nightmare because I thought he was against me, but he’s stuck with it. My best friend is my girlfriend Jo who I can always be open with.
At first I wouldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want people to know how I was feeling. Now I don’t care and I don’t mind what the media write. Stuff in my life is well documented; me dad’s been put away for murder - he’s been found guilty so I’m not going to try and defend him or defend my mum. What’s happened has happened and the most important thing is that we stick together as a family.
I’m getting better in myself, may be that’s maturity or a belief that things will be OK. I used to think that I could buy happiness - that if I got this or that it’d make me happy, but in the end it made me even iller. So I gave up thinking about material things. I’ve realised it’s all an inside job.
FACT: Work related stress is the second biggest occupational health problem in the UK, after back problems. (Health Safety Executive, 1998)